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Drought worsens nationally but improves in Illinois

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Updated: December 28, 2012 6:19AM



Drought conditions in Illinois have been improving in recent weeks, and the forecast is for continued recovery, experts say.

According to the Nov. 20 U.S. Drought Monitor report, 32.3 percent of the state was in drought, matching the level it stood at a week earlier and plunging from the 100 percent level it stood at from June 12 through Sept. 25.

No part of the state was in extreme drought, down from 81.2 percent of the state classified that way in early August.

“It’s a far cry from where we were a few months ago,” said Brad Rippey, agricultural meteorologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “There is some lingering drought, mainly across the North and the Northwest, a little bit in the South. Looks like pretty much across the board we’ve seen general improvement for a number of months now. Generally speaking, since August, it has been a positive direction for Illinois.”

The drought forecast through February is for further improvement in Illinois.

“The expectations are not for slipping back into drought for Illinois and points east,” he said. “The outlook is not nearly as optimistic for the [Great] Plain states, where we do expect drought persistence through the end of winter into February from South Dakota to Texas.”

Nationally, drought conditions worsened, according to the Nov. 20 report, which showed 60.1 percent of the continental U.S. in some form of drought, up from 58.8 percent a week earlier.

The worst drought conditions in the country were in Nebraska, where 100 percent of the state is in drought with more then 75 percent of the state classified as being in exceptional drought, the most extreme category.

Continuing drought conditions there and in other Plain States are expected to hurt winter wheat production, said Darrel Good, professor of agricultural and consumer economics at the University of Illinois.

For consumers, that means a “continuation of higher food prices as these higher crop prices slowly work through the marketplace,” Good said.

Expect higher prices for breads, cereals, grains, “all of the above, plus probably most importantly meat products, because we are seeing reduced supplies of meat because of the high feed costs,” he said. Those shorter supplies will drive prices higher.”

In the Midwest, conditions improved slightly with 52.5 percent of the region in some form of drought, down from 52.7 percent.

The forecast for drought improvement is favorable in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and eastern Missouri, Rippey said.

“Western Iowa, western Missouri and points west, that’s where the drought persistence is expected.”



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